Pastoral Catering for Soul and Style – The New Indian Express

Pastoral Catering for Soul and Style – The New Indian Express
Pastoral Catering for Soul and Style – The New Indian Express

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Don’t bet. If you leave too late, it might not be there. It will return to where it came from, and from the grassy grounds and chiseled hillsides, hedge fund manager and hospitality expert Deepak Gupta and architect Bijoy Jain have carved out Amaya – a unique collection of five luxury villas The collection, with a total of 15 rooms, is situated on 25 acres of tiered mountainside in Darwa village near Kasauli, Himachal Pradesh. “In case something happens, there will be no trace of Amaya in a few years,” Gupta said with a smile. Maybe the infinity pool is here to stay—a shimmering mirror of water in which guests can bask in warm comfort while the mountain breeze blows through the pine trees.

Amaya is a marvel of sublime imagination, patience, perseverance and will. Gupta, a financier living in Singapore, spent seven years developing the property, an hour and a half drive from Chandigarh. He bought the entire mountain in 2014, studying the undulating landscape and letting the resort develop first in his mind. Most buildings are rustic and materials were transported using local ponies. Gupta and Jain decided on Himachali’s local construction methods, which are more durable than concrete monsters. They used the kath kuni masonry technique without mortar. “Bijoy’s work is experimental in nature. He uses architectural styles and designs based on topography and location,” Gupta said. The walls are made of local stone, earth and limestone.

Amaya takes the safety of its guests very seriously; whether it’s the villas or the long, high-ceilinged dining room, lit with low-hanging paper lanterns that glow buttery at dinnertime, they can withstand earthquakes. The huge copper roof has a green sheen of age. Each villa has two single bedrooms, a master bedroom and a study, connected to the large living room and kitchen. The Amaya aesthetic is the language of the earth in muted tones of beige and white.

The furniture is Scandinavian in style, with dark wood pallets, thin, clean lines and occasional flashes of polished brass. The long brass door bolts are custom made. Gupta and Jain aren’t skimping on style: Bathrooms feature Villeroy & Boch accessories and agarwood toiletries from Ayca Natural Skincare. As the blades of a custom-made overhead fan whir sleepily, you sink into a thick mattress in pure white. The light inside has a special quality.

Thanks to the marble flakes in the frame, sunlight comes in through the doors and sloping windows, bathing the room in a soft ivory glow. “Bijoy uses modern elements only when they are needed to create some of the comforts we need in our lives,” Gupta elaborates. But the elegant bowls and small vases, together with the saying of earth, are unexpected. Huge antique chests squat on hulking legs and dominate the balconies. These are weaknesses that designers can forgive, easily overlooked in a more valuable place.

Amaya is also a culinary destination, with a sustainable ethnic menu crafted by chef Prerna Bandal, a young Maharashtra culinary whiz who cycled alone through her hometown. The food is exclusive: Amaya Farms peas come from extensive local vegetable gardens. The Emmer khapli wheat used in the pot duck pate comes from Gupta Farms in Nabha, Punjab. Bandal draws inspiration from her upbringing as a Konkani Maharashtra native, “Cooking is a story created by your own upbringing and personal experiences.”

Her rawa fried trout with wasabi and poppy-seed curry is inspired by childhood seafood preparations. Dining here is both an upscale and local experience. Spicy miso ramen shares space with bhedu broth and smoked cheese dumplings. Soft dal khichdi coexists with thick gucci yakhni bhaat. After arriving in Darwa, Bandar spent several days with the villagers learning their recipes and cooking techniques. The result is dishes like dunghar murgh; the Dham people of Himachal use coals in their cooking – the hot embers are thrown into the dal along with mustard and the pot is sealed to give the food a smoky flavor. The gastronomy of the region is rich in taste. Bandal’s anardana trout, for example, is a spicy balance of pomegranate seeds, yogurt and dried mango.

With a wide smile, the young chef admits he didn’t learn city life while living and working at the resort. At Amaya, everyone is smiling: staff, gardeners and guests. Gupta seems to be the only one who thinks deeply. But brooding was his thing. This is the Amaya vibe.

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